BP faced renewed U.S. pressure on Sunday to do more to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as the United States and Britain played down diplomatic tensions over the crisis.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was up to the British energy giant, under pressure in the United States to suspend its dividend to help pay for the damage, to decide on its payout to shareholders.
He also said that the British government was offering the United States large quantities of chemical dispersant to help clean up the spill.
BP placed a containment cap on its blown-out seabed well this month, but oil continues to gush into the ocean, polluting beaches and wildlife habitats, killing marine life and threatening tourism and fishing.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral James Watson told BP in a June 11 letter made public on Saturday that its containment plan did not go far enough or include enough back-up measures in the event of equipment failure or other problems.
He gave the company two days to come up with a fix.
"BP must identify in the next 48 hours additional leak-containment capacity that could be operationalized and expedited," Watson said in the letter.
Millions of gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf since an April 20 offshore rig blast killed 11 workers and blew out the BP well. The partly contained leak is estimated at 40,000 barrels (1.68 million gallons/6.36 million liters) a day.
Frustration over the handling of the spill has grown in the United States, with lawmakers calling on President Barack Obama to take a harder line with BP, which has lost tens of billions of dollars in market value during the 55-day crisis.
Senior British officials, however, have tried to bolster BP, warning about the economic impact of destabilizing a company that is a staple holding of British pension funds.
Obama told British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday that he had no interest in undermining the value of BP.
In a 30-minute phone call the two leaders played down tensions over the oil spill and reaffirmed close ties. But a U.S. official said Obama will insist that BP pays clean-up costs and meets economic claims from the spill.
Asked if controversy in Britain over U.S. criticism of BP was now at an end, Hague told the BBC: "Yes I think so. Relations between the UK and U.S. are excellent."
"They (the United States) know full well there are many thousands of people working for BP in the United States and there are almost as many American shareholders of BP as there are British shareholders," he said.
Hague said BP must "do its utmost to stop this oil spill, to deal with it satisfactorily on a permanent basis and to do everything it possibly can to mitigate the consequences."
The U.S. Ambassador to London, Louis Susman, told the BBC that U.S. criticism of BP was not anti-British.
"They both (Obama and Cameron) are agreed it's an ecological disaster. BP has to do everything possible to stop the leak, accept the responsibility. The president made it very clear that he has no intention of trying to hurt the financial viability of BP," he said.
BP is under pressure from some U.S. lawmakers to suspend its dividend — currently valued at about $10.5 billion annually — until the Gulf crisis is resolved and damages are paid to individuals and businesses in the region.
BP's board, which has met weekly during the crisis, could take up the issue on Monday. But a source said a decision may not be made until after BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg has met with Obama at the White House on Wednesday.
"BP will decide on its own dividend, of course," Hague said, when asked whether it would have to consult U.S. politicians on its payout.
Cameron, who took office last month, is under pressure in Britain to do more to protect a company that accounts for 12 percent of all dividends paid by British companies.
BP expects the total bill for the Gulf oil clean-up to be $3 billion to $6 billion, but many stock analysts expect the cost to be much higher.
States along the Gulf coast are increasingly demanding financial compensation from BP as the spill spreads along their shorelines, slamming tourism and fishing industries, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum sent a letter to BP requesting that the company deposit $2.5 billion into an escrow account to cover potential losses, the Journal reported.